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Ready For Transition

Pipe bomber
CBS/AP
While the decision on who will become the next President remains in the hands of lawyers and judges, the federal bureaucracy in Washington is marking time. On one hand, some officials push policy while familiar power brokers remain in office. At the same time, the other hand is holding back on other initiatives while awaiting a new leadership team, hopefully with views closer to their own.

Much has been made of the Bush-Cheney team’s open grab for the official transition office space and equipment that go to the winner. Since the Government Services Administration holds the keys and the purse strings is now controlled by the Clinton administration, they have had to start up their own operation in the Virginia suburbs.

However, when there is really, really a newly, officially elected President, the bureaucracy is ready, something it prepares to deal with every four years.

In Foggy Bottom, the Department of State is ready, say officials. While Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is off on a farewell trip to southern Africa, there are offices, equipment and briefing books ready to help the transition team assigned to foreign policy issues by President.

When the GSA hands over the keys, State will make available as many foreign service officers, civil service employees and support personnel as requested to help their next boss.

Each of the 25 “Bureaus” in the department—from Administration and Africa to Nonproliferation and Western Hemisphere Affairs—has prepared what spokesman Phillip Reeker called “briefing memos and other documentation” for the transition team.

“These are not history books. These are policy and briefing books to bring the new people up to speed on important issues,” says Reeker.

In addition, other “Offices” within State—Counter Terrorism, Policy Planning, War Crimes, Middle East Negotiations—will help ease their successors into the current situation in their areas. The same for each Under Secretary and Assistant Secretary of State.

At State, officials say, the transition preparations have been ready since election day, November 7. Officials from the Under Secretary level to lower ranking political appointees are leaving for hoped-for greener pastures. Senior diplomats such as Ambassador Dennis Ross, the chief middle east negotiator, have signaled an intention to move on.

Soon the judicial branch of government will make it official and the rest of the country will know whether Vice President Gore or Governor Bush will be President. The bureaucrats in Foggy Bottom are ready.

By CHARLES WOLFSON
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